Looking Back, Looking Forward

By David L. Bay | OSRAM SYLVANIA, Inc.

While scanning recent news headlines, I was reminded of those before-compact fluorescent days (mid-1980s) when blazing speeds in the personal computer (PC) world was 6 MHz, PC RAM was sized at 256K, 10 MB was a large PC hard-drive, PC cost was around $3,200 and DOS was the queen of PC operating systems.  Looking back, it is both informative and interesting to compare the information technology (IT) of the mid-1980s with IT equipment and capabilities widely and globally available today.

For those youngsters who may not know, DOS was the command-driven interface one had to work with in order to make those before-compact fluorescent PCs do something useful.  PC activity was initiated by keyboard-entered commands (there was no mouse), you had to know how to “path,” you had to have a mental picture of your directory structure, and the list goes on.  A PC at that time was pretty good at doing one thing, but not very good at doing more than one thing.  If you were using a word processor and wanted to calculate using a spreadsheet, you had to save your word processing document, close the word processing program, and open your spreadsheet program.  For those who were both courageous and extremely patient, one could purchase a “memory manager” (who remembers QEMM?) which allowed the user to open several programs in RAM and (supposedly) by using a few keystrokes, “seamlessly” switch between programs.  When that worked, it worked well. Unfortunately as the size of working documents increased, the stability of the system decreased, and eventually the memory manager would write something into a forbidden RAM area locking up the PC, forcing a loss of your work and the need for Ctrl-Alt-Del.  Then thirty years ago (20-Nov-1985) Microsoft introduced Windows 1.0, a multi-tasking shell environment which sat on top of DOS, enabling simultaneous operation of multiple programs and providing a new GUI (e.g. – including a “mouse”) that significantly improved a user’s experience and productivity.  It took Microsoft another five years to evolve Windows 1.0 into Windows 3.0 of which I consider to be the forerunner of the Windows environment you work in today.

By now you might be asking “how does a Microsoft Windows history lesson relate to LED lighting?”  In my opinion, the smart connected lighting products, technologies, applications and services available today remind me of that circa 1985 PC system upon which I cut my PC eye teeth.  Despite today’s connected and smart lighting products are both innovative, knowing the history of the PC, I expect substantial improvements in user experience, device performance, application capabilities, as well as lower procurement costs.  In summary, I believe the developing future of connected and smart lighting can be envisioned by analogizing the evolution trajectory of that before-compact fluorescent PC/software system to that CY 2015 IT equipment you are using to read this blog.  I expect:

Calendar Year 2016 and Beyond:

  1. Energy-efficient lighting will be important, but the focus will shift toward reducing energy consumed by lighting
  2. Less talk about the volumetric light of the mid-1990s, more talk about glare-free task and needs-based light
  3. Less talk about lamps and lighting products, more about systems which also include lighting and controls
  4. Increased use and application of tunable lighting, including CCT, CRI and intensity
  5. The generation which never had the pleasure of running DOS will have 10-plus years under their belt interacting with powerful state-of-the-art personal computing devices, including PCs, smartphones, tablets, activity trackers/monitors and the like and they will begin championing use case applications and services in/for/with systems which also happen to include lighting and sophisticated interactive controls for same (think Uber-like business models)
  6. Smart Lighting will become something more than just 13 letters.  I expect it to become synonymous with “easy to use and offering a convenience.”
  7. Connected and smart technologies, including lighting, will be cost-justified using a creative mix of simple payback, life-cycle cost and a cost-benefit analysis which integrates human factors considerations

With hard work, patience and wide-eyed imagination, the lighting possibilities and opportunities which lie ahead are limitless.  What an exciting time to be in lighting!

Osram_DavidBayAbout the Author
David L. Bay, LC has worked for OSRAM SYLVANIA for more than 35 years, holding various R&D positions including electronics development engineer, light source development engineer, manager of electronic lighting product development, engineering director of Electronic Control Systems, Global Systems Coordinator, Research Manager for Low Pressure Discharge Products and his current position of Corporate Engineer in the Central Technology Research and Innovation organization. David holds twelve US patents, two internal trade secret awards and has been honored with two of the Company’s highest honors – The GTE/Leslie H. Warner Award and the OSRAM Star award. David holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and the Optical Society of America (OSA). David is also a National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) EIT and is Lighting Certified (LC) by The National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP). 

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